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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

Vines climb into view for September color
Intense fragrance and vivid color entice bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and gardeners

by Carolyn Singer
September 24, 2011

sweet autumn clematisThe warmth of the early morning fall sun brings the honeybees to the sweet autumn clematis, a sweet sound as I enter the vegetable garden gate in September. A Monarch butterfly lingers in the heady fragrance, still and satisfied, buried in the blossoms while the honeybees forage.

September brings fresh color to my garden with vines that grow through the summer months and reach their peak of performance in fall. As long as I can keep them out of reach of the deer, there are many choices, both perennial and annual.

Growing on the fence and over the gate for the last fifteen years, the sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata, photo left) opens its small white flowers for several weeks, beginning in early September. When the masses of fragrant blossoms are open, I am aware of them long before I reach the gate.

A very vigorous vine, the sweet autumn clematis is more carefree than many of the other species in this genus. Whether cut back to the ground or to woody stalks during the winter (or even unpruned!), the growth from early spring until bloom stage is relentless, and attractive. On the outside of the fence surrounding the vegetable garden, I protect the new growth from deer damage by weaving it back through the fence. In August I use bird netting to cover this side, allowing the buds to develop with some protection, and keeping as much foliage as possible out of reach.

'Heavenly Blue' morning gloryNearby, the annual morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor 'Heavenly Blue', photo right) with its intense blue flowers is completely out of reach from the deer, who will even munch on the vining stalk when it is tightly wound around support. Seeds must be sown when danger of frost is past in spring, though I often sow them in the protection of my cold frame in early May. When the garden soil warms, the annual morning glory also self-sows where it grew last year, providing young seedlings to transplant.

I'm growing the morning glory on an unusual support, the woody stalks left from a Lady Bank's rose cut back severely during winter cleanup. The old rose was taking up too much valuable edible gardening space, more than 100 square feet.

purple honeysuckleOne of the most colorful focal points in my garden in fall is the purple honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica 'Purpurea', photo left), with purple and dark-green foliage. An outstanding bloomer for several weeks in summer, this fragrant vine has delicate sprays of cream, yellow, and purplish-red flowers, lovely in contrast with the rich hues of the leaves.

In fall, the clusters of berries that follow the honeysuckle flowers turn a vibrant crimson, a bright spot near the native basket grass and fading wild black-eyed Susans. This year the vine is just four years old, and is lush with berries. I fantasize about how dynamic it will be when it is even older. This perennial vine was also protected from deer damage in its youth. Now it cascades over the top of the deer fence that protects the edible garden, and the deer have done minimal damage to the portions they can reach.

When you are including perennial vines for vertical interest, plan for how much space they will consume when mature to minimize pruning. The most beautiful vines are those that have been left untamed and allowed to roam freely. One of my favorite fall-blooming vines is the hops from the Sonntag homestead, now covering more than forty feet of fence. But there are so many wonderful attributes of this vine that this will have to be a column for another day.

©2011 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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